Social media users on Twitter were surprised on Oct. 27 to see the official Instagram account of McDonald’s in Azerbaijan posting patriotic photos that appeared to endorse the ongoing combat in Nagorno-Karabakh, where fighting involving Azerbaijani military forces backed by Turkey continues to rage against the Armenian occupiers of the enclave.
One such post displayed the flag of Azerbaijan flying over a mountain vista with the proclamation, “Karabakh is Azerbaijan!” A caption on the photo read, “Let our flag fly over all our native soil of Azerbaijan!”
While the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan (including by Armenia), some social media viewers found it odd to see the iconic American fast food corporation weighing in during the ongoing conflict.
The fighting that broke out in late September is some of the worst seen since a peace agreement ended a war over the disputed area nearly 30 years ago.
Already casualties from both sides are believed to be in the low thousands, including several hundred civilians.
Social media users found that an Instagram account belonging to Burger King in Azerbaijan was also posting similar pro-military photographs. These posts were later removed.
By October 28, both the Azerbaijani Burger King and McDonald’s accounts had been taken down from Instagram.
“Our franchisee in Azerbaijan has removed the social media content,” the McDonald’s Corporation confirmed to Polygraph.info.
Separately, the group Armenian National Committee of America issued a statement calling for a boycott of McDonald’s until the company takes action on the matter.
Multinational fast food franchises have often been forced to navigate the minefield of international politics. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the fast food chain Hefry’s recently rebranded their “Turkish Burger” as the “Greek Burger” amid a Saudi boycott of Turkish goods and Turkish-related products.
In a more egregious case, McDonald’s temporarily shut down a franchisee in Guangzhou, China, after it was reported the restaurant managers attempted to ban African customers from entering amid complaints about widespread harassment and discrimination against the city’s large African expat population. McDonald’s issued a statement condemning the incident.